At the beginning of February 2012, Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was resurrected in Parliament. After its initial conception in 2009, an international plea from activists and governments forced the Ugandan government to shelve the discriminatory bill, with some donors even threatening to drop aid to Uganda if it did not comply. As a result, the bill was curbed in August 2011. According to politician David Bahati, who recently re-introduced the bill, it no longer contains a provision for the death penalty and proposes reduced prison sentences for homosexual acts instead of a life sentence.
With impeccable timing, filmmakers Malika Zouhali-Worrall and Katherine Fairfax Wright came to the Berlinale International Film Festival with Call Me Kuchu, a moving and urgent portrait of the LGBT community in Uganda and their daring struggle to be themselves – and stay alive – in an ultra conservative and violent climate for gays. The film took second place for the Audience Award in the Panorama Best Documentary Competition and won the festival’s Teddy Award for Best Documentary for films related to LGBT1 topics.
At the center of the struggle in Call Me Kuchu is David Kato, a charismatic homosexual who is the only publicly gay rights activist in Uganda and the first in his community to come out. In an unmarked office on the outskirts of Kampala, Kato labors to repeal Uganda’s homophobic laws and liberate his fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women, or kuchus, as they’re called. But for his cause he must face the consequences – watching his back at all times and even sleeping with a weapon by his side.
The co-directors were in the midst of making the documentary at the time of Kato’s death and continued rolling to report on the state of Kato’s community. In an especially difficult scene, anti-gay protestors hijack Kato’s funeral while his friends and family are in the midst of mourning. What ensues is a painful battle of rest in peace vs. burn in hell.
We also meet many of Kato’s inner circle: his best friend Naome, a fellow human rights activist, Kato’s bishop Christopher Senyonjo, the only priest who openly supports the homosexual lifestyle, Cong Jones, who fears he might be the next victim, and Stosh, a young lesbian who was raped and consequently infected with HIV.
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